Historical feature film
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Historical Feature Film. Feature Film > Some (confusing) criteria historians use in evaluation. accuracy of detail use of original documents consulting with a professional historian type/nationality/looks of actors appropriate music

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Historical Feature Film

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Historical feature film

Historical Feature Film


Feature film some confusing criteria historians use in evaluation

Feature Film > Some (confusing) criteria historians use in evaluation

  • accuracy of detail

  • use of original documents

  • consulting with a professional historian

  • type/nationality/looks of actors

  • appropriate music

  • “poetical and metaphorical” use of historical details (see Robert Rosenstone quoting Gerda Lerner)


Feature film context for article historical film and postmodernism

Feature Film > Context for Article: Historical Film and Postmodernism

  • “Postmodernism”--contradictory term, used to denote post-Fordist economy, non-linear anti-modernist literature and art, and methods of historical research based on textual interpretation rather than fact-finding

  • Roland Barthes: there are no facts, just “reality effects”

  • Joan Scott: because language is important, we have no direct access to our experience - we should study instead how people narrate their experience

  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: “subaltern” (illiterate, subordinate, racially and socially oppressed) peoples cannot “speak” for themselves because their language is determined by the dominant (educated, elite) culture

  • Rosenstone’s conclusion: anachronisms and “displaced facts” are ok, as long as the film’s interpretation “rings true” as a result


Feature film fictions historically true in a filmic way according to rosenstone

Feature Film > Fictions “historically true” in a “filmic way” according to Rosenstone

  • Walker: conversation between Vanderbilt and Walker that never happened

  • Born on the Fourth of July: events depicted as part of Syracuse U. protest really happened at other protests at other universities

  • A Knight’s Tale: “The Wave” and other signs of contemporary fan behavior


Feature film historical film that presents history more conventionally the return of martin guerre

Feature Film > Historical film that presents history more conventionally: The Return of Martin Guerre

  • A film about an impostor who takes place of a husband who goes to war. The film takes place in a 16th-century French village.

  • Natalie Zemon Davis, a professional historian of France, consulted on the film. Her book was the basis for the film.

  • But: Natalie Zemon Davis was criticized for her book anyway, because both the book and the movie speculated about the motives behind the wife’s acceptance of her fake husband--her critic argued that Davis produced an unverifiable “feminist” interpretation


Feature film historical film that presents history without anachronism the return of martin guerre

Feature Film > Historical film that presents history without anachronism: The Return of Martin Guerre

  • A film about an impostor who takes place of a husband who goes to war. The film takes place in a 16th-century French village.

  • Natalie Zemon Davis, a professional historian of France, consulted on the film. Her book was the basis for the film.

  • But: Natalie Zemon Davis was criticized for her book anyway, because both the book and the movie speculated about the motives behind the wife’s acceptance of her fake husband--her critic argued that Davis produced an unverifiable “feminist” interpretation


Historical feature film 1358046

Feature Film > Historical film that aroused protests of French historians despite its historical veracity: Danton (dir. Andrzei Wajda, 1983)

  • A film about the French Revolution, where Danton’s execution during the Terror is used as a metaphor for communist repressions in Eastern Europe

  • French historians attacked the film as a misinterpretation of the history of the French Revolution

  • But: Andrzei Wajda was more interested in communism in Poland than in revolutionary France


Historical feature film 1358046

Feature Film > Historical film comedy that does not try to be factual yet was lauded for authenticity: The Front (dir. Woody Allen, 1976)

  • A film about blacklisted screenwriters in 1950s United States where Woody Allen plays a gambler who submits screenplays written by his blacklisted friends.

  • Nobody expected a comedy to be realistic

  • But: Woody Allen used many actors who were blacklisted during the 1950s so his film is often used by historians teaching McCarthyism


Film review assignment some questions

Film Review Assignment > Some questions

  • What is the film’s genre? (drama, documentary, etc.)

  • What is the film’s audience? (TV viewers, general film audience, students)

  • What is the film’s main historical point? (what sense of history is it trying to convey “metaphorically,” as per Rosenstone’s article)

  • What evidence does this film use? (relevant to both documentary and feature films)

  • In what ways is this film successful?

  • It what ways does this film fail as history?


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